The Capitals outscored the Flyers six to three during five-on-five play during the first round. It's great that they outscored their opponents but it's a little troubling that they only tallied six goals over the six games. Granted a lot of that can be pinned on the stellar play of Neuvirth, as the Capitals certainly had their chances, but they will need to find a way to score more goals against the Penguins. To do that the Capitals will need to see more from their second set of forwards.
All of the Capitals five-on-five goals came from either the first or third line. For that reason it's unsurprising that Barry Trotz elected to shake up the offensively challenged second line by replacing Andre Burakovsky with Marcus Johansson to start Game Six. The new line didn't produce any points, actually the team's only goal came with Johansson on the ice with Backstrom and Ovechkin, but the team won and it looks like Trotz will stick with the adjusted lineup on Thursday. But should he?
Generally when a line isn't scoring you can attribute it to either a lack of chances or to a stretch of poor shooting. With the trio of Burakovsky, Kuznetsov, and Williams it's certainly the latter. The three combined for a total of 39 scoring chances and 19 high-danger scoring chances in the first round but not a single five-on-five goal.
It's important to note that Burakovsky, Kuznetsov, and Williams are decent finishers. During the regular season, among forwards with at least 500 minutes, the league average was 8.83 goals scored for every 100 scoring chances. Burakovsky was significantly above average (12.7), Williams slightly below (8.72), and Kuznetsov a bit further down (7.97). Granted in a small sample you can expect just about anything but if they had converted at similar clips during the playoffs that line would've been on the ice for between 3-4 goals for rather than the actual total of zero.
To be honest, our line played pretty good together. We just couldn't really score any goals. We had opportunities and we played solid. We didn't have a whole lot in our own zone, and I think that's what's imporant. As long as you have the puck, then you're playing good defense, and I think we did.
This line also dominated in terms of puck possession (all three had a score-adjusted-corsi-for % of over 57), which is a little surprising given how frequently that line appeared to be losing the puck unnecessarily (i.e Burakovsky being out-muscled along the boards or a Williams turn over). For what it's worth this line was pretty productive against the Penguins during the season. During the season-series Burakovsky led the Capitals in five-on-five points with five, while Williams and Kuznetsov tallied three and two respectively.
By moving Burakovsky to the third and Johansson to the second the Capitals are adding a shooting threat to the third line (a line that didn't spend much time in the OZ in the first place) and adding a passing threat to the second line (a line that presumably needs more help finishing than passing and possessing). Trotz has options depending on what needs fixing, but it's a fine line to walk between addressing problems and over-tinkering.
In a short series it makes sense to mix things up when the bounces aren't going your way. But with a new round comes another set of games, a larger sample size where the production can catch up to the chances and let's face it... the Capitals will need that production.
Stats derived from War-On-Ice